Transcript of our video of Director Polly Findlay describing the plot of The Alchemist.
I’m Polly Findlay and I’m directing The Alchemist.
The play is called The Alchemist and it’s by Ben Jonson. It’s a farce. It’s not the first farce in English, but it certainly marks a real development in the form.
So the play is set in 1610. The plague has arrived in the town, so what this means is that there are a huge number of empty houses sitting around as the wealthy landowners have all fled to their places in the country. And the story is about three con artists, who are down and outs, who take advantage of this by managing to get hold of one of these houses and using it to run their business from.
What you see over the course of the play, is them managing to persuade a whole gang of potential clients to come to the house in order for them to con them out of various different things. So they’re setting up a number of different fraudulent exercises, one of which is pretending to be able to turn base metal into gold, which is where the title of the play comes from. We witness these people being conned out of their money through increasingly elaborate, complex cons. And over the course of the play, what we see is the way in which these different plot lines collide, the narratives of the different clients become entwined in a way that becomes increasingly difficult for the gang to handle, and we also see the Increasing pressure on the relationships between those three, essentially, as things get more and more pressurised and go more and more wrong.